Ravi Zacharias leaders blinded by loyalty, ‘spent donor money to sue abuse survivor’
By Bridgett Banks
February 28, 2022
A new report commissioned to dissect the internal culture and practices at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) has found that the organization’s leaders were so full of admiration for their founder that they could not confront him regarding his behavior.
The report, commissioned by Guidepost Solutions, says that the leaders’ “personal affection and admiration” for Zacharias stopped them from taking necessary actions once they were aware of certain behavior.
The report also found that ministry funds were allegedly used to sue an abuse survivor and mislead the public.
It is alleged that Zacharias traveled with a female masseuse, and while this raised eyebrows among some staff, anyone who questioned Zacharias was “sent to Siberia”, a term for being sidelined or marginalized by RZIM leaders.
Upon his death in 2019, and with it the surfacing of accusations of sexual assault, the organization’s board commissioned an independent report to evaluate RZIM’s “structures, culture, policies, processes, finances, and practices”. A separate investigation confirmed that Mr. Zacharias engaged in “sexting, unwanted touching, spiritual abuse, and rape”.
Zacharias’ death was big news in Christian circles, with the popular apologist announcing he had cancer, before dying shortly after. High profile Christians including Tim Tebow posted tributes, but very soon after, the wheels fell off. Accusations of sexting and so forth began to surface, and while RZIM was quick to brush off allegations, they were very quickly forced to answer a wide range of accusations, which ultimately led to the organization’s demise.
The statement from the RZIM Board of Directors has been published in full below. RZIM has also created a list of frequently asked questions for those wanting further information.
The past 18 months have brought to light painful and sinful realities which have impacted so many lives. We at RZIM sincerely apologize for the enormous pain caused by Ravi Zacharias’ sin and our failure to uncover it sooner. Regretfully, we trusted and defended a man of whose integrity we were firmly convinced.
We hope that releasing this independent assessment of our organization produced by Guidepost Solutions will answer any remaining questions and renew our effort to be more transparent. In addition to Guidepost, RZIM retained Rachael Denhollander, a recognized expert in supporting victims of sexual abuse, to work within our survivor care process. This process provided confidential, third-party pathways for any survivors and witnesses, including any who had not yet come forward, to provide information related to abuse or harassment at RZIM.
RZIM provided financial redress to victims of Zacharias’ sexual misconduct identified through the process. Funds for these payments were supplied by proceeds from a life insurance policy on Zacharias so that donor funds would not be diminished or otherwise impacted. In addition, RZIM leadership sought to meet with and ask forgiveness of victims personally and met with those who accepted the invitation.
Although we are releasing this report, we do not agree with everything in it. We believe there are inaccurate accounts or pieces of information that were either overlooked or omitted by Guidepost and we disagree with some characterizations therein. Regardless, we believe this report provides an important assessment of our organization’s actions to investigate Zacharias and the steps we sadly failed to take. The report highlighted that the work environment at RZIM was largely positive, and that organizational and financial processes were sound, as further evidenced by the last 15 years of clean audited financial statements. In its conclusion, the report provides a series of recommendations to improve accountability, transparency, and cross-functional operations. By the time the report was received, RZIM had already begun addressing many of these recommendations.
Importantly, no board or staff members were identified to have known of, or knowingly contributed to, the immoral behaviors of Ravi Zacharias as confirmed by both Miller & Martin and Guidepost. We realize however, that we were in error in allowing Zacharias’ December 2017 statement to the press that “no ministry funds were used” in connection with his legal action. As the report highlights, the ministry did provide money to Zacharias, which was used to pay the settlement and expenses. While the payments were legal and properly accounted for, we were wrong to let this misstatement stand.
We have endeavored to honor the biblical exhortation to be “quick to hear, slow to speak,” even when some narratives about RZIM differ from our experience. Our focus has been instead to repent and learn from our mistakes. We remain committed to supporting ministries that present the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those with deep questions in challenging settings around the world.